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A letter from Kurt Esslinger on Interpretation Assignment from South Korea
March 2015 - Korean YAVs in the U.S.
Greetings to you in the name of Christ, the Prince of Peace. I am writing to you from the road in Ames, Iowa, at the moment, where I am visiting churches here before I head on to Chicagoland and elsewhere. I always appreciate this time to tell the stories of our ministry.
One of those stories that has been particularly interesting for communities I meet here involves the Korea YAV Exchange Program that Hyeyoung and I have been able to get off the ground with Hannam University. This year for the first time four young adults from Hannam University in Korea are currently serving as Young Adult Volunteers (YAVs) at YAV sites in the U.S.A. SooHwi is at our Denver, CO, site; SeongEun is at our Chinook, MT, site; HanByeol is at our Tucson, AZ, site; and JiHye is at our Atlanta, GA, site.
Before they were to come over to the States, Hyeyoung and I met with these four young women to talk about cultural differences, the purpose of the YAV Program, and to reflect on their hopes and expectations for a year of volunteering in the U.S. They were full of excitement and a sense of possibilities, but they also admitted they were quite anxious. None of them felt very confident in their English ability. We also sent cultural notes to each of the sites where they were placed to prepare the staff there for Korean cultural differences. Staff members at the sites were also concerned about whether they could offer placements that would provide meaningful work in light of the language barrier.Continue reading
A letter from Elisabeth Cook serving in Costa Rica
Spring 2015 - Violence Continues
They had disappeared. All 43 of them. All 43 students had disappeared leaving no trace behind. As Gloria and Priscila, both from Mexico, shared their pain with us, our hearts reached out to the families who were suffering the loss of 43 sons and brothers. These young men in rural Ayotzinapa, Mexico, who were preparing to be schoolteachers, were arrested as they exercised their right to protest. Priscila, who is in charge of the Latin American Biblical University (UBL)’s communications strategies, and Gloria, a student from Chiapas finishing her degree program, invited the entire community to share with them in prayer and solidarity for these young Mexican students and their families. This was in November, and there was still hope as we publicly joined the outcry against the violence plaguing Mexico and many countries in Central America.
The idea that with the end of the military dictatorships and wars in the ’80s and ’90s, violence has decreased and forced disappearances have ceased has proven to be far from the truth. The reality experienced in Latin America countries is quite different. Between 2007 and 2013, 26,000 people were officially declared as disappeared in Mexico. A report presented by the humanitarian agency ACAPS declared the violence in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras to be similar to that of countries involved in armed conflict. This violence impacts health, education, the economy and, of course, quality of life. Students who live in or come from these contexts face particular challenges as they seek university-level theology education.Continue reading
Letter from Rebecca Lawson in the Philippines
March 27, 2015 - Defending Ancestral Lands
Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it. Psalm 34:14
As I sat at the breakfast table with a group of 10 indigenous men from around the north-central mountain range of the Philippines known as the Cordillera, the older ones reminisced about the people’s valiant effort to stop the Chico Dam project of the 1970s and '80s. They recalled how everyone in the community was involved, from young to old, men, women and youth. Father Buyagan, a retired Episcopalian priest, grinned with satisfaction as he recounted how the people were united and steadfastly continued their protests. As tribes historically known for being warriors, it was in their blood to fight against the unwanted invaders. He, as a man of the Church, would nod his head as he passed those who were armed and ready to defend their ancestral lands. The indigenous peoples of the Cordillera won that battle; the four proposed hydroelectric dams that would have displaced thousands of indigenous families and submerged their ancestral lands were never built.
Later that morning 60 participants from across the Cordillera shared what is happening in the various provinces where I learned that not much has really changed; now, along with the threat of proposed dams, the region faces multinational corporation mining interests. Once again Father Buyagan became an animated storyteller. He lamented the weakening of traditional practices and values, which makes it much harder to unify the people to defend their ancestral land. As he vividly described it, “When the elders are respected, all they have to do is POINT. A person who is going against the interest of the community will be shamed and will stop.” He went on to explain that as people have been taken away from traditional farming that feeds their families in a local economy, money can talk. A national political system was superimposed upon a tradition of collective leadership by the elders, and in the process the people became more vulnerable to aggression by developers from outside the community.Continue reading
A letter from Esther Wakeman serving in Thailand
January-March 2015 - Ministry Through Fun Times
In January Payap University hosted the 5th ASEAN Textiles Symposium—an international event that included a visit of the Crown Princess of Thailand to our campus—which is a huge deal. The whole Payap community worked hard and cooperated wonderfully. The first and second floors of our library were transformed into a bamboo showroom filled with gorgeous fabrics and clothes from the region. The princess seemed genuinely interested, and everyone was pleased with the good press and the good fun.
Two fashion shows were organized by Ajarn Suchinda, the director of the Christian Communications Institute (CCI). Many of you have enjoyed watching CCI’s Thai dance and drama performances over the past few years. Suchinda put his creative genius to work in a similar way for the fashion shows. Our students were the models and I was like a proud mama watching them strut their stuff on the catwalk. I especially liked the show using all Thai materials—Thai silk is gorgeous, and some of the creations were delightful. These events showed us we can do a great job when we all put our hearts into it. It was a helpful, unifying event.Continue reading
A letter from Dong Ho and Sook Nim Choi serving in Indonesia
March 25, 2015 - Settling In
Dear friends and family,
Greetings! We pray you are well and prospering.
We have been in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, for almost four months. Thanks to the support, guidance and help from many, we rented a house in a safe and bustling neighborhood not far from Duta Wacana Christian University (where we both serve), bought a used car, and even found a gym for keeping in shape. As expected, initially we had to deal with the (hot and humid) weather, unfamiliarity with local ways and customs, and difficulties in moving around and communicating. But we are happy to report that, after the initial shock, we have settled down and are able to move freely and communicate with limited frustration (together with our efforts to acquire and exercise the local language, our body language skills have been put to remarkable use!). That being said, we are still searching for community and looking to establish a balance of outer and inner life.
Indonesia declared its independence from the Netherlands in 1945 after enduring more than 400 years of colonial rule. The brand of Christianity of the European colonizers had met a local matrix suffused with Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism—which had swept through the islands in previous waves of migration and exchange during pre-modern times—and with local animist cults, which together to this day give form to the worldview and everyday lives of peoples in this archipelago nation of 250 million souls. As much as Indonesia is shaped by its past experiences, it is also informed by its forward-looking expectations regarding its life and place in the global community.Continue reading
A letter from Marta Bennett serving in Kenya
March 30, 2015 - Daily Life in Nairobi
The other day someone asked in an email, “What’s it like living in Nairobi?” That’s a hard question to answer, since it’s just normal life these days. Between teaching, administrative meetings, discipleship groups, organizing the kids back and forth to school events, church activities, shopping for food, buying the newspaper, paying bills, dealing with traffic, it’s just daily life. Even this last sentence listing activities could have been written from just about anywhere in the world. But Nairobi, a city of between 3.5 and 4 million people, has a personality and an urban culture unique to itself, though also similar to many other large African cities. It is a mélange of urban and village, skyscrapers, multi-storied concrete apartments, stone houses with gardens, and valleys filled with mud-and-tin-roofed huts squeezed together wall to wall, with internationals and locals bustling about their business morning, noon and night. Buses, cars, matatus (small Nissan public vans), bicycles, motorbikes, goats, cows, and people are on the constant move, and multiple languages with a cacophony of other sounds and smells fill the air.
It got me thinking, and I started noticing everyday experiences, impressions, and interactions, that are part of daily life in the big city here. So I offer you some snapshots, 20+ random impressions from within these last two weeks.Continue reading
A letter from Burkhard Paetzold serving in Germany
April 2015 - Ministries in Eastern Europe
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!
Let us celebrate Easter. Let us celebrate Christ's victory, the victory of life over death and our hope that injustice, violence and the destruction of God's creation will not have the final say.
As a regional liaison for Central and Eastern Europe I hear questions like the following from time to time: “Why would we, PC(USA) World Mission, need to be present in this part of the world? Europe is very advanced in many aspects; they don't need our help.” I believe our missiology is different—it is mutual. So I see myself as a bridge-builder. To facilitate sharing our mutual insights as Christians in different parts of the world helps to support the least of these to combat racism, injustice and violence and to share the good news that “Christ has risen for all of us.”
The situation is diverse, so let me try to illustrate, where and why I see our mission worker's and my own accompaniment and solidarity with our partners in Europe.
I cannot do this without your support, so first and foremost let me thank you very much for all your support for my ministry as a regional liaison for Central and Eastern Europe and the Roma people. Your continuing encouragement and financial support means a lot to me.Continue reading
A letter from Ruth Brown serving in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
April 2015 - Community Health Evangelism at Work
Muoyo wenu! (Life to you!)
On a rainy Sunday afternoon in March I accompanied Pastor Malenga Ilunga, professor of Old Testament at Shepherd-Lapsley Seminary, and his neighbor and local village chief, Albert Babadi, on their visits to families living just outside the seminary campus. These two men are volunteer members of the Christian Community Health Evangelism (CHE) committee of Ndesha, and for the last seven months this team of six volunteers has been following 84 children who have brachial arm circumferences of less than 14 cm., an indication of malnourishment.
“Following the children” means many visits and much support to a child’s family to encourage healthy behaviors related to malnutrition. For each family, CHE volunteers: (1) Explain that, as Christians, they want to assist neighbors to have better health for their children; (2) Refer the child to the health clinic for height and weight measurements and an assessment of nutritional status; (3) Observe and assess the child’s daily intake of nutritious food (4) Observe the family’s water source, storage and purification; (5) Observe the cleanliness of the home and yard and the presence and condition of the family’s latrine; (6) Observe birth spacing and the understanding/use of birth control; (7) Look for the presence of a garden, practices of building up the soil, and growth of protein foods near the home; (8) Assess the understanding/use of Moringa leaves in the diet and the presence of Moringa trees near the home; (9) Review immunization records for the child; and (10) Assess the use of mosquito nets for all family members. The CHE team continues visits to the families to (11) Encourage and assist with correcting unhealthy behaviors; (12) Work with the family to plant Moringa trees and other protein-rich plants near the home, and (13) Begin practices of composting. For families succeeding with the home gardens, CHE will (14) Assist and monitor the families’ raising of guinea pigs to supplement their diet; and (15) Introduce the families to the concept of sustainable agriculture through collective farming.Continue reading
A letter from Bill and Ann Moore serving in Japan
April 2015 - God at Work in Japan
As part of our work both of us have the privilege of speaking in chapel services at Yodogawa Christian Hospital (YCH) in Osaka, which is a ministry founded by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and operated by our corporation in Japan called “Japan Mission in mission partnership with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.),” also known simply as Japan Mission. From Monday through Saturday at 8:30 in the morning well over 200 YCH staff and patients gather in the chapel for a brief service of worship to begin the day. As Representative Director of Japan Mission, Bill recently spoke at chapel on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of YCH’s founding. He spoke about the Japan Mission’s efforts from YCH’s early beginnings to provide compassionate and loving whole-person healing of body, mind, and spirit to witness to the love of God that we know in Jesus Christ, the Great Physician. He encouraged the staff to let their lights shine every day as they cared for patients and carried out YCH’s ministry of healing.
After the chapel service ended and the staff rapidly dispersed to their respective workstations, a man wearing pajamas remained behind. He was immediately identified to Bill as a patient, because in Japan it is the custom of inpatients to roam the hospital in their pajamas. The gentleman slowly walked to the front of the chapel, bowed deeply toward the cross and with tears streaming down his cheeks, softly uttered a prayer. Thinking that he was in distress, Bill approached him and asked if he cared to talk. It turned out that his tears were actually tears of joy and thanksgiving and that he had come to the chapel to thank God for the healing he had received. He entered the hospital with little hope for relief, but now that his illness was under control he had new hope for the future. God used Yodogawa Christian Hospital to give him his life back, so he was overcome with joy and felt compelled to thank the Lord. Like the one Samaritan among the ten lepers that Jesus healed, it was this one who came back to praise God and give thanks to the Lord.Continue reading
A letter from Sandi and Brian Thompson-Royer serving in Guatemala
Spring 2015 - We Are Called to Love
…We Are Called to Love (1 Corinthians 13:13)
When we hear from churches and friends in the U.S., they often ask: “What do you do in Guatemala?” Frankly, there are days we wonder! And then God speaks loudly and reminds us. We are called to love. Our lives are being transformed each and every day in Guatemala through our partnership with the Sinodica (Presbyterian Women’s organization in Guatemala) as well as with our new community here in Quetzaltenango.
It’s been a year since we arrived on Mother’s Day, May 10, 2014! By U.S. standards, we live simply. Our apartment has two bedrooms, one bathroom, a tiny kitchen and a small dining room. Cold water comes out of the two sinks, and we heat water to do the dishes. One evening we had new Guatemalan friends for tea and cookies. One of their children, Gilbert, who is 5 and has spent time here was excitedly showing our apartment to his sisters. Then he snuggles up to Brian and asks, “Do just you and Sandi live in all these rooms?” Maura and Werner have four children. They live in a two-bedroom Habitat home and have “enough.” When we miss our grandchildren, Gilbert’s love helps fill that hole. They are a beautiful, loving family and we are finding ways to support each other.Continue reading
A letter from Karen Moritz serving in the Czech Republic
Spring 2015 - Reconciliation Among Czechs and Germans
Trip to Moritzburg, Germany
On Friday, March 20, seven of us from the Central Church Office of the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren (ECCB) made our way by car from Prague to the small German town of Moritzburg. (Yes, that really is the name of the town, I’m not making it up.) We were going for the weekend to spend some time with our ecumenical partners in the Evangelisch-Lutherische Landeskirche Sachsens (EVLKS, in English called the Lutheran Church in Saxony). The ECCB and the Lutheran Church in Saxony have had a longtime partnership, which has included frequent visits by representatives from both churches. Encounters like this facilitate reconciliation by getting to know each other as individuals. Part of the time together also involved getting to know the issues that each church currently faces.
The partnership between these two churches embodies the desire for reconciliation. Sadly, there has been a long history of violence and mistrust between Czechs and Germans. For many years, in fact centuries, Czechs and Germans have lived side by side in this part of the world. Throughout history these groups have often lived together peacefully and garnered strength from one another. However, there has also been a long history of German imperialism in this part of the world. For over 300 years the Habsburgs governed most of this part of Europe as a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. After the collapse of the empire with the end of WWI many parts of this section of Europe enjoyed a short period of independence, which came to an end with the rise of the Nazis in the late 1930s. One of the harshest responses to the end of WWII came with the expulsion of Germans from Czechoslovakia in 1945. Sadly, these tensions were not just cultural and political—the churches were a part of these conflicts as well. The ECCB was one of the churches that realized the importance of reconciliation.Continue reading
A letter from Eric and Becky Hinderliter serving in Lithuania
Eastertide 2015 - Pilgrimages
Our flights have been confirmed; the tickets have been purchased. We fly to the U.S.A. on May 6 for four months of “mission interpretation” (IA)—what used to be called “furlough” or “itineration.” As we are thinking about packing and car rentals—the logistics of mission interpretation—we view this coming period as a homecoming after a sojourn in a foreign land. In the words of missiologist Anthony Gittins, our mission journey has taken us from our “homeland” to the “wonderland” of mission and we now return to a “new found land” where we once lived.
We have been mission co-workers here in Lithuania for almost 15 years. Much has changed with us just as much has probably changed with you. We are longing to see you “face-to-face” and to reconnect with congregations in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). We have accepted 15 invitations from Presbyterian churches; we expect to accept more in the next several weeks. (Contact us via our PC(USA) e-mail email@example.com.) We hope this will be a joyous reunion with our mission advocates and supporters. We also know there will be moments of sadness as many of the mission-minded “saints” who sent us have been called home.Continue reading
A letter from Mark Adams serving in Mexico
April 2015 - Seeing Clearly
Dear Sisters and Brothers:
Have you ever prayed to be spit on?
Last month we received a letter from Chuck, one of the delegation members from First Presbyterian Church of Farmington, New Mexico, who visited us in February. In addition to sending some incredible pictures from his time with us, he commented on the final biblical reflections that we shared together at the U.S./Mexico border before they returned home, reflections based on Mark 8:22-26 about some people leading a blind man from Bethsaida to Jesus and begging Jesus to touch him.
Before he touched the blind man, Jesus spit on his eyes . . . and after Jesus’ touch the man could only see people who looked like trees walking around. It would take more than one touch for the blind man to see clearly.
Toward the end of his letter Chuck wrote: “My prayer now is that Jesus will spit directly in my eyes so that I can see clearly any issue that arises.”
This week while in the line of cars that forms in Agua Prieta waiting to ask permission of our U.S. Customs and Border Protection to enter the United States, I was watching for David, one of Dad’s former Carolina neighbors. Dad is visiting us and was with me in the car. Dad had never met David although he had passed by his home on Highway 321 between Gastonia and Clover hundreds, if not thousands, of times during the six years David lived in the Carolinas, working in construction.Continue reading
A letter from Karla Koll serving in Costa Rica
April 2015 - Ecumenical Dialogues
Dear Friends in mission,
What do you get when you put a group of Reformed Christians together with a group of classical Pentecostals to talk about mission? We don’t know yet, but we are going to find out over the next five years.
In November of last year I found myself in Hungary as part of the team named by the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) for the new round of the Pentecostal Reformed Dialogue. The two teams met for five days at the House of Reconciliation in Berekfundo, a retreat center of the Reformed Church in Hungary. Members of the Reformed team came from Germany, Hungary, the Netherlands, Puerto Rico, South Africa, and the United States. Pentecostal participants were from Australia, the Philippines, the United States, Switzerland and Russia. In this first meeting we learned about understandings of mission in both traditions.
The World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) brings together 229 member churches from around the world, including the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The Theology and Communion Office of the WCRC facilitates dialogues between the Reformed family and other churches. There are currently dialogues under way with the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion, and the Lutheran World Federation. The Pentecostal Reformed Dialogue, which began in 1996, has previously focused on “Word, Spirit, Church and the World” and “Experiences of Christian Faith and Life” in the two traditions.Continue reading
A letter from Doug Tilton serving as regional liaison for Southern Africa, based in South Africa
April 2015 - A Shortage of Schools
Driving along the dusty route from Epworth, south of Harare, Zimbabwe, to Rock Haven Lay Training Center, one passes a score of large UNICEF-branded tents pressed up against the road. While hardly luxurious, the tents are an improvement on earlier shelters, cobbled together from bits of wood and canvas, that housed dozens of families evicted from neighboring farms during successive waves of land seizures and government “clean up” operations. Although the tents offer slightly more reliable protection from the elements, the families that live here have little in the way of access to other services—electricity, water, health and education.
It was in part because of the displaced households on their doorstep that the Harare Synod of the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP, one of Presbyterian World Mission’s global partners), which owns and operates Rock Haven, discerned a call to start a high school at the center. Rock Haven Academy opened last year with 4 teachers and about 50 secondary students—Forms One to Four in the parlance of Zimbabwe’s British-style educational system—preparing for the national ordinary-level examinations (“O levels”). This year the number of students more than doubled to 110. The school added a Fifth Form class—with plans for a Sixth Form class next year—to enable pupils to take the advanced-level examinations (“A levels”), which can be the gateway to university admission.Continue reading
A letter from Justin Sundberg serving in Nicaragua
April 2015 - “SCRABBLING”
Romans 8:26 “. . . the Spirit helps us in our weakness for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. ”
“Scrambling” describes our recent story well. Our Nicaraguan brothers and sisters scramble too, though with much more toil. Thank you for making it possible for us to live and work with these wonderful, but toiling, Nicaraguans, to serve as a bridge of relationship with you. Even on our most ragged and run-down days, we are carried by your love and support and thank God for you. Thank you so much for sharing so generously in our ministry.
But it’s “Scrabbling,” not scrambling, that is on my mind. I played a game of Scrabble yesterday with our eldest son, Jack. And then today some friends shared their approach to Scrabble—memorizing as many two- or three-letter words as possible, even if they cannot recall their definitions.
This Scrabble strategy is an apt metaphor for us. We piece each day together with words and growing relationships we don´t always fully comprehend. There are times, to be sure, when our contributions are more elegant or strategic, but we usually feel a sense of accomplishment when we can participate in life even in the simplest of ways.Continue reading
A letter from Jim McGill serving in Malawi
March 2015 - A Disastrous Flood
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Southern Malawi was hit by Tropical Storm Chedza during the week of January 16, which caused flooding that resulted in over 175 deaths and 336,000 internally displaced people (IDP). The rains affected a large part of the southern end of the country, including some lower areas of Blantyre where Michael and Jason are in boarding school. Although the flooding has indeed been disastrous, it has been wonderful to see how the body of Christ has responded and has been able to help the victims of this terrible flooding.
With a disaster of such magnitude, coordination of all of the groups wanting to assist becomes critical. The Malawi government is the lead coordinator and liaisons with organizations to ensure that the assistance is as effective as possible. The Actions of Churches Together (ACT) Alliance, a coalition of more than 140 churches and affiliated organizations associated with the World Council of Churches (WCC), facilitates cooperation and coordination of church-related assistance. Our church in Malawi, the Church of Central Africa, Presbyterian (CCAP), as well as Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) (http://pda.pcusa.org/situation/malawi-flooding/) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) are both members of the ACT Alliance. The Synod of Livingstonia (SoL) is the coordinating member for the ACT Alliance in northern Malawi and was involved in the relief work after the earthquake in Karonga in 2009. The Churches Action in Relief and Development (CARD) is the coordinating partner in the south, so they have been coordinating all of the church assistance for the floods.Continue reading
A letter from Amy Davisson Galetzka serving in Thailand
Quarter 1, 2015: January–March - Papers = Memories
Dear Friends and Family,
My first few months of the year included travel back to Thailand from Christmas and New Year’s with family in the U.S. Getting back into life in Chiang Mai is not difficult; it is very familiar, one of my ‘homes’ on this earth. I am thankful for my many friends in Chiang Mai, for our rental home that is a blessing, and at least in the first month or so, for good cool weather. I am thankful for the office I work in and for the many projects that we are privileged to support.
The days have gone by quickly these three months, but started out filled with papers. We are doing audits of the past five years of financial records of the charitable giving that has been done through our offices in Chiang Mai. The relief work in Burma is the bulk of the paperwork (receipts, reports, agreements, photos, etc.) and took most of the time preparing. After weeks (well, months actually) of preparation, and a stressful week of responding to the on-site auditors’ requests, we got through most of our goals and have reports on everything except one more year’s papers. After the office literally being difficult to walk through, looking at almost every paper (documenting expenses, income, etc.) and every receipt from the past five years made me nostalgic. It was just supposed to be technical double-checking, but I saw the handwriting of many co-workers who were amazing to work with but have since moved on to work in new locations. I was reminded of their care and the fun it was to work with them, even when we were doing things as tedious as some of the paperwork.Continue reading
A letter from Christi Boyd serving in Central Africa, based in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
March 2015 - Training Women for Community Transformation, Niger
The serenity and meekness with which Rebecca Bara speaks about her ministry instills respect. With a master’s degree in theology and a track record of institutional development, her capacity to lead was recognized by the Evangelical Church of Niger (EERN). After a year of substituting for absent professors, the church offered her the position of Director at the Aguié Bible School. It is one of EERN's three institutes for theological formation that organizes a two-year program of pastoral studies for evangelists who have received their diploma at the Bible School of Dogon Gao or Guéchémé, served subsequently for at least three years in the field, and want to continue at a more advanced level following their call to the ordained ministry. Those sent to rural areas without an established church are usually called evangelists, the others pastors, but the terms are interchangeable. When talking about evangelizing, a holistic connotation is commonly implied.
As a highly qualified female theologian directing an institute that prepares candidates for ordination, Rebecca is in a rather unique situation, because the denomination itself doesn't consecrate women to the ministry. "I can't explain this,” she says, “but I do see it as coming from the Lord." She had been a secondary school teacher when she accompanied her late husband to the Central African Republic for a degree program at the Bangui Evangelical Graduate School of Theology. It was he who had understood her potential and encouraged her to study alongside him. After finishing her graduate studies, she created and led a school for pastors' wives who do not qualify for entry in the advanced theological program but need classes of their own while their husbands are in school.Continue reading
A letter from Luta and Jeremy Garbat-Welch serving in Malawi
April 2015 - Effective Initiatives
Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ!
“I don't work in projects, I work in initiatives”; these were the words spoken to me (Luta) by Ms. Mphatso Nguluwe, director of the Livingstonia Synod AIDS Program (LISAP), a program of our church partner, the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP). As an AIDS program LISAP focuses on building community capacity—empowering communities to identify their problems, and then identify and initiate sustainable interventions to these problems. One such initiative is based in Karonga District where “kupimbira” is commonly practiced. Kupimbira is when parents arrange for their young daughters (as young as 7) to be married to older men in exchange for money, goods or to pay off an outstanding debt. Among other issues, kupimbira puts young girls at increased risk of HIV/AIDS. In 2009, when LISAP first entered the community, Ms. Nguluwe was told there was nothing she could do; other organizations had already tried and failed. LISAP approached the issue from an educational position—through many community meetings the community identified that the reason girls weren't in school was because of kupimbira.Continue reading
A letter from Amanda Craft serving as Regional Liaison for Mexico and Guatemala and Omar Chan serving in Mexico
April 2015 - Unexpected Gifts
Unexpected gifts: sharing ministry activities in El Paso and Ciudad Juarez
“Although it was a sunny day in Ciudad Juarez, the chilly air inside the cinderblock community center of Pasos de Fe made me shiver. The steamy cup of coffee in my hands helped a bit. However, it was the unexpected exchange between a group of adolescent boys from an impoverished community in Juarez and the PC(USA) General Assembly Moderator, Rev. Dr. Heath Rada, that really warmed the room. It truly is an honor to be part of how the Holy Spirit moves in this world.”—A reflection by Amanda Craft from the PC(USA) General Assembly moderator’s visit to Pasos de Fe, a Presbyterian Border Region Outreach ministry site
We were fortunate to host two very important delegations to El Paso and Ciudad Juarez to learn more about border ministries. The first visit was with a group traveling with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) 2014 General Assembly moderator, Rev. Dr. Heath Rada. The second was with the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. (NCC). Several highlights stand out from these visits.
To begin with, we were invited to host the Radas, Heath and his wife, Peggy, through a visit of several sites in Ciudad Juarez. The general missioner of Tres Rios Presbytery, Rev. Dr. Jose Luis Casal, was instrumental in organizing the visit. Tres Rios Presbytery appoints representatives to the Pasos de Fe board. Jose, accompanied by his wife, Cecilia, with Rev. Dr. Dan Saperstein, co-leader for Mission and Partnership of the Synod of the Sun, and Bart Teeter, moderator of Tres Rios Presbytery, were also part of the visiting group. We discussed ministries along the border, historic and present, that have touched so many. It was not possible to talk about border ministries without noting the challenges this part of the world has experienced since the spike in violence since 2008 and the severed ties of the two national churches—the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico—in 2011.Continue reading
A letter from Jonathan and Emily Seitz serving in Taiwan
March 2015 - Lessons From Jonah
For Taiwan, Jonah makes for fun reading. Taiwan is an island nation. It is far and away the “fishiest” place I’ve lived, and daily I pass display tanks with shrimp, lobster, eel, crabs, clams, and other local delicacies. (I’ve heard that the Taiwanese language uses a dozen words to distinguish different types of seaweed.) Taiwan also sits between great empires (Japan, China), so the story of Jonah from little Israel going to the Assyrian capital city fits well. For pastors, Jonah is also a poignant figure. He wants to be faithful to God, and yet he finds that the mission God gives to him is exactly the one he does not want. He regrets not only going, but also succeeding in the work God gives to him.
There are five pastors in a small Doctor of Ministry class I am running this semester. The theme is “Jonah and Mission,” and the class is a mix of Bible, theology, and pastoral ministry. For 10 weeks we will gather on Monday mornings and work through the book of Jonah and a mix of writings about Jonah. The five pastors all have different backgrounds. One serves in Taipei and the rest come from the west coast or center of Taiwan. There’s a pastor who is Atayal (one of Taiwan’s indigenous ethnic groups). Almost all of them began their ministries 10 to 20 years ago, and they have a lot of experience. Most serve in small congregations, some with just a few dozen members. They all were excited for our first class and I think it will be a really good experience.
A letter from Ingrid Reneau Walls in the UK, on leave from service in Ghana
March 2015 - Turning my wrestling into waltzing…
Since last Fall I’ve been wrestling with time, seeking both to lengthen and widen it so that I could comfortably be and do all that is required of me to continue living life to the full as a 21st century mission co-worker. I’d returned to the UK from Ghana in October to be with Andrew, whose health had become a matter of concern. While awaiting his medical tests, we’d celebrated our first Christmas at home in Aberdeen, and then New Year’s with his children in Southampton. While still awaiting those medical tests, which we’d learn were now expected in about two months, we decided to return on Jan 7 to Akrofi-Christaller Institute (ACI) in Akropong, Ghana, for the spring semester of teaching and lecturing. It was an energizing start: teaching Academic Writing to an incoming M.A. class of 18 students, 4 of whom were women (an answered prayer to double the amount of female students on campus) and an M.Th. class of 6. There was also a three-day seminar on “An Introduction of the Life of Christian Scholarship,” facilitated by Andrew, which I co-facilitated. It was attended by most of ACI’s teaching staff and also staff from the three academic institutions that ACI is mentoring.Continue reading
A letter from Ryan and Alethia White serving in Germany
April 2015 - Annual Ministry Update, 2014
Celebration and New Beginnings
The Iranian new year, Nowruz, occurred on March 20, and we celebrated throughout the week with the church community and also with the larger Iranian community in Berlin. One evening a few days before Nowruz we joined a large, celebratory group of Iranians from all over the city for a pre–new year festival, Chaharshanbe Suri, or Wednesday Light. As darkness fell a row of small bonfires were lit and people took turns jumping over each one to symbolize leaving behind the less desirable aspects of the past year and welcoming the new year with hope. We especially enjoyed the traditional music, sweets, and mingling after the fires were extinguished. A few days later we gathered with the church community for a special dinner and service to welcome the new year together.
A few weeks before Pentecost the German congregation and the Iranian congregation had a joint worship service. Ryan preached on the role of prayer and the service was conducted in English, German, and Farsi. Hymns and worship songs from both congregations were sung. It was good exposure for everyone despite the linguistic challenges. As we saw barriers break down, small conversations happen, greetings, and friendly interactions as people reached out to each other, we were inspired and thankful. We have much to learn from each other.Continue reading
Thank You and Your Family for serving God by taking His word so far from Your Home.
God is doing his work and using us a tools in other nations.during my working here in Athens i observed that there are many oppertunities to share the Gospel massage with other those do not know Jesus and we can bring them to Jesus Christ.Please prayer for me that i'm a very littel to that God is using me here in Athens Greece. God bless you.